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How to Choose Environmentally Friendly Hydraulic Fluids

How To Choose Environmentally Friendly Hydraulic Fluids

Hydraulic fluids are vital to any machinery and equipment that rely on hydraulic power, such as excavators, cranes, lifts, and brakes, and marine.  However, common hydraulic fluids can pose serious environmental risks if spillage occurs on ground or in the water.  It can contaminate natural resources, harm wildlife, and affect human health. Therefore, it is important to choose environmentally friendly hydraulic fluids that lower the negative impact on our ecosystem.

Environmentally Friendly Hydraulic Fluids

The other name of hydraulic fluids is environmentally acceptable lubricants ( EAL). This type of hydraulic fluid meets specific criteria for biodegradability, toxicity, and bioaccumulation. These criteria are defined by the U.S. Vessel General Permit (VGP), which controls the discharge of lubricants from vessels operating in U.S. waters.  According to the VGP, an EPL must meet the following specifications:

Biodegradability: The hydraulic fluid must be biodegradable, meaning microorganisms can split it into harmless substances. The VGP needs at least 75% (w/w) of the hydraulic fluid must be biodegraded at least 60% within 28 days, according to the OECD 301B test process. 

Toxicity: The hydraulics must be minimally harmful, so they must not cause significant harm to aquatic organisms. The VGP requires that the hydraulic fluid pass critical and chronic toxicity tests for fish, crustaceans, and algae according to the OECD 201 or 202 test methods.

Bioaccumulation: the hydraulic fluid must not be bioaccumulative, meaning it does not accumulate in the tissues of living organisms. The VGP requires that the hydraulic fluid must contain log Kow( octanol-water partition coefficient) of less than 3 or a bioconcentration factor (BCF) of less than 100 according to the OECD 117 or 305 test method.

Methods To Choose The Hydraulic Fluid That Are Environmentally Friendly

Methods To Choose The Hydraulic Fluid That Are Environmentally Friendly

Different types of EALs are available in the market, such as vegetable oils, synthetic esters, polyalkylene glycols, and water-based fluids.  Each type has advantages and disadvantages regarding performance, compatibility, cost, and availability. Therefore, choosing the right EAL for your application depends on several factors, such as:

Operating conditions: You should consider the temperature, pressure, speed, and load of your hydraulic system. Some EALs can have lower viscosity or higher volatility than conventional hydraulic fluids, which can affect your system’s lubrication and sealing properties. You should also check the compatibility of the EALs with your system components, such as seals, hoses, filters, and pumps. Some EALs can cause swelling or degradation of certain parts, leading to leakage or failure of your system.

Environmental Conditions: You should also consider the potential exposure of your hydraulic fluid to the environment. Some EALs can have lower resistance to oxidation or hydrolysis than normal hydraulic fluids, which can affect their stability and performance over time.  

You should also check the biodegradability and toxicity of the EAL in case of accidental spillage or leakage. Some EALs can require some special disposal or recycling methods to prevent environmental pollution.

Economic factors: There is a need to consider the cost and availability of EAL compared to central hydraulic fluid, some EALs can be more expensive or less accessible than conventional hydraulic fluids, affecting your budget and maintenance schedule. You should also consider the potential savings or benefits of using EALs in terms of reduced environmental liability, improved public image, Hydraulic fluid viscosity, and enhanced regulatory compliance.

The Benefits Of Using The Biodegradable Hydraulic Fluids

Biodegradable fluids can improve the performance and efficiency of your hydraulic system. They have lower friction and wear, higher lubricity, and a viscosity index that transfers the heat better than traditional fluids. This can result in lower energy consumption, less maintenance, and longer service life of your system.

These fluids can enhance the safety and health of your workers and customers. They have lower flammability and toxicity than traditional fluids, which can reduce the risks of fire  Explosion and exposure to harmful chemicals. This can also improve the working conditions and comfort of your customers.  

Biodegradable fluids can support the sustainability and social responsibility of your business. They can help you comply with environmental regulations and standards that are becoming more stringent and widespread. They can also help you demonstrate your commitment to protecting the environment and society, boosting your reputation and customer loyalty.

The Four Basic Type Of Hydraulic Fluids

Types Of Hydraulic Fluids

Four basic types of hydraulic fluids are environmentally friendly:

HETG fluids (Hydraulic Environmental Triglycerides)

They are not soluble in water and come from vegetable and animal oils. The most common sources are soybean, sunflower, and rapeseed oil. HETG fluids are safe for the environment and lubricate well. Still, they are unsuitable under high heat and water as they oxidize, thicken quickly at high temperatures, and are twice as expensive as mineral oils.

HEES fluids (Hydraulic Environmental Ester Synthetic)

These fluids are not soluble in water and come from vegetable and petroleum feedstocks. HEES fluids have a long lifespan because of their higher resistance to what and oxidation. They also have a good flow at low temperatures and various viscosities. The disadvantage is that HEES fluids are costly and need a special setup. They are less biodegradable than other options.

HEPG fluids (Hydraulic Environmental Polyglycol)

Depending on the sources, these fluids can be either soluble or insoluble in water. HEPG are polymers resulting from a chemical reaction between glycol and ethylene oxide, propylene glycol, or propylene oxide. HEPG fluids are fire-resistant but not fully biodegradable, and they need a special system design to use. For example, HEES fluids are not compatible with polyurethane seals.

HEPR fluids ( Hydraulic Environmental Polyalphaolefin)

These are not eco-friendly and soluble in water; their low-viscosity version is eco-friendly.  These fluids protect against corrosion, lubricant excellently, and last longer. They can also work under a wide range of temperatures. The downside of HEPR fluids is that they are expensive and unsuitable for underseals and gaskets. 

Choosing environmentally acceptable hydraulic fluids is a sensible choice that shows your side of being an environmental lover. It is also a smart choice for your business. Using EAL, you can reduce the environmental impact of your hydraulic system while maintaining and improving its performance and reliability. However, you should carefully evaluate the different types of EALs and their suitability for your application before making a final decision. 

Other than choosing the fluids, one important thing to consider is looking for a reliable company that can give you the required fluids based on your equipment type and need. Atlantic is among the companies that provide you with the best EALs on custom demands.